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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sri Lankan cardiologist honoured in Australia

From today's The Island newspaper


Dr Kumar Gunawardane (right) and Mrs. Gunawardane after the award.

A Sri Lanka-born cardiologist, Dr Kumar Gunawardane, has been bestowed the most prestigious award - CONSULTANT EMERITUS by The TOWNSVILLE HOSPITAL AND HEALTH SERVICE BOARD.

The presentation was made by the Minister for Health, Queensland, Dr. Steven Miles at a glittering staff excellence award ceremony. This was attended by many local dignitaries including the state and federal parliamentarians and the Mayor of Townsville Cr Jenny Hill.

Dr Steven Miles also presented a floral bouquet to Mrs Shirani Gunawardane honouring her selfless contribution to her husband’s career.

Dr Gunawardane’s initial cardiology training was with Dr Ivor Obeysekare and Dr N. Walloopillai at the General Hospital, Colombo. Subsequently, he worked as Registrar in the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Regional Cardiac Service UK and the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane, the leading cardiothoracic institution in Queensland.

He assumed duties as Director of Medicine at the Townsville General Hospital in 1982. This is the premier public tertiary care facility in North Queensland and also the main teaching hospital for the James Cook University Medical School which is on site. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor of the JCU.

The citation was by Dr Ryan Schrale a young Interventional Cardiologist colleague.

Dr Gunawardane had a highly distinguished 33-year service to the Townsville Hospital and Health Service as a Consultant Physcian and Cardiologist. He demonstrated the highest levels of leadership and professionalism throughout his medical career including an 11-year tenure as Director of the Department of Medicine (1982-1993) and also four years as the Director of Cardiology (2002 -2006). He was also the Chair of Cardiac Services for part of this time. For many years he was a member of the Statewide Cardiac Advisory Committee.

Dr Gunawardane’s career has spanned decades of major advancement in the understanding of and treatment of cardiac disease; throughout this time he spearheaded introduction of modern cardiology at the Hospital. He staffed the Coronary Care Unit single-handedly for 12 years - probably a unique record for Australia. He established local treatment protocols in conformity with national and international guidelines.

He also single-handedly established Echocardiography in North Queensland. For the first eight years, he performed and interpreted all echocardiograms personally without the assistance of sonographers or cardiac scientists. Dr Gunawardane, through a commitment to continuing professional development and improvement of services, undertook a sabbatical training year in USA. (1988/89).

He worked with another distinguished Sri Lankan Cardiologist, Professor P. A. N. Chandraratne, who was the Deputy Chief of Cardiology at the University of Southern California Medical School in Los Angeles. This allowed Dr Gunawardane to establish advanced echocardiography techniques to North Queensland including trans-oesophageal and stress echocardiography.

Dr Gunawardane demonstrated outstanding leadership during the establishment of the Cardiac Unit. The establishment of the unit faced stiff competition from competing centres Cairns Base Hospital and a proposal from the Princess Alexandra Hospital Brisbane. He made a compelling and effective application to the selection committee headed by Dr Graeme Sloman, Director of Cardiology at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He carried the day and was the sole cardiologist in the planning Northern Regional Health Authority Committee reporting to the Director General of Health.

Throughout his career Dr Gunawardane has had an abiding commitment to teaching. From 1982 onwards he was a Senior Lecturer of the University of Queensland and subsequently was Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor of Medicine at the JCU. He taught medical students, junior medical staff both basic and advanced trainees, allied medical staff and also medical practitioners in Townsville and outreach areas. Some of these trainees have gone on to become outstanding Consultants including two current Professors of Medicine.

Owing to the national recognition of the Townsville CCU, Dr Gunawardane participated in ground breaking international cardiovascular trials, the results of which still shape our current practice. The most notable were ISIS2 (International Study of Infarct Survival -2), the first trial which conclusively proved the effectiveness of thrombolysis and aspirin in the treatment of heart attack.

LIPID (Long term intervention with Pravastatin in Ischaemic Disease Trial), proving statins reduce heart attacks and vascular events. CURE (Clopidogrel in Unstable Angina to prevent Recurrent Ischaemic Events)

Dr Gunawardane also participated in JCU, QUEENSLAND and NATIONAL major collaborative studies some of which were presented internationally. He has published many manuscripts in peer reviewed journals.

In recognition of his services and achievements Dr Gunawardane was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of Physicians (FRACP), Fellowship of the American College of Cardiology (FACC), Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh (FRCPE) and the Fellowship of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (FCSANZ).

Sunset – Nature’s art with a message and more technical details

 The subject of Sunsets has evoked so much interest and generated many comments from the "regulars", that I thought of publishing an article by ND followed by a useful link sent in by Rohini Ana.

At the end of ND's article, I have given the link that Rohini had sent.

Sunset – Nature’s art with a message
By Nihal Amerasekera

I have often wondered why sunsets being a natural phenomenon which occurs everyday evoke such intense passion and emotion amongst us. Is it the crimson glow that mesmerise us ?  But we don’t pine for the day that’s gone!! The combination of the sun, the clouds and their reflection on the water gives the sunset a magical status.  I am reminded of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Stray Birds”

Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add colour to my sunset sky.”

Something to remember when we behold those enchanting sunsets.

The sunset is transient . Although unfailingly regular its never the same in appearance even at the same venue. So much like our own lives changing from day to day and from year to year, sometimes the clouds hiding the beauty within.

Sunset ushers in the end of the day and the end of our toil. It brings on the silence of the night and the peace that comes with it.  During my sojourn in Arabia I found the Muhsin’s  evening call for prayer hypnotic, as the sunset across the ever changing sand dunes. I grew up living opposite a church in Nugegoda. Every evening at 6 pm the church bell rang rhythmically and gave us kids a clue it is time to get ready to find refuge in our homes. This reminds me of Gray’s Ellegy written in a country Church Yard (1751).

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

In the tropics, sunset also energisers hordes of mosquitoes to torment us in waves!! But worldwide it is a busy time for thieves and burglars to earn their living. Despite its beauty Sunset has its drawbacks.

I am born a dreamer. Once it nearly cost me my life. I was living at the Jeewaka hostel in 1966. After a long afternoon study, I walked to the Colpetty beach with Sanath de Tissera, to sit on a rock and watch the sunset. We often talked about things spiritual to relax and unwind. As darkness fell we started to walk back, deep in thought. When I was about to cross the railway line, my friend pulled me back with great force - and I saw the train go whizzing past me. I could feel the warmth of the steam and coal and was just inches away from certain death.

It must be the diurnal variations caused by our hormones which make us more serene and emotional past sunset and a lot more amorous and sensual too. With all its beauty, sunset ushers in a seedy aspect to life and none more graphic than the wartime music of Marlene Dietrich which was a popular when WWII was raging. The song ‘Lili Marlene’ conjures up images of a young lady waiting under a gas street lamp for her Army lover to return.

Underneath the lantern
By the barrack gate
Darling I remember
The way you used to wait
'Twas there that you whispered tenderly
That you loved me
You'd always be ………
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene

Everything that has a beginning also has an end. For the light of the day, sunset is its end. Sunset is a reminder for us all of our own mortality and also a memory of all who have gone before us. It enlightens us to use our time wisely and to keep our thoughts calm and peaceful. These are our sunset years. The simple thought that we leave this earth as we came, with nothing, appeals to our generosity and altruism.

I recall with much nostalgia the sunset at Angkor Wat and its thousand year old temple now being restored by the Cambodian government. Gordon’s Bay sheltered by the Helderberg mountains in Capetown provides a wonderful vantage point to watch the sunset knowing well there is no land beyond its horizon before the South Pole. South America is like no other place on earth for its climate, mood and landscape. Sunsets across the breath-taking landscape of the Atacama desert and that across the Magellan straits in Punta Arenas in Chile will remain with me forever. I have kept the best for the last. The sad story of the Taj Mahal has resonated through history and its magical beauty fails to hide its grief and torment. The sunset beyond the Yamuna river with the Taj Mahal as a back drop is a sight fit for the Gods.

The link that Rohini had sent.


As Zita has suggested, please listen to this while reading the posts on Sunset.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sunset from Beautiful New Zealand (Auckland) - Creative Spot from Rohini Ana .

An Ode to the Blog

By Nihal (ND) Amerasekera

This is a corollary to what Mahendra has written with such elegance. I will reiterate what I had said before on this blog – Friendships are natures great gift to the human race. Ones made in our youth had a certain closeness which we could never replicate later on in life.  Even now those friendships remain close despite the passage of years and the oceans that separate us. They seem priceless and have lasted a lifetime.”  Despite all this our lives have moved on in a myriad of ways and in multiple directions sometimes even without our knowledge. We all have changed mentally and physically to become different people. This makes it more interesting to meet many years later if we accept things have changed. While some of us remained in Sri Lanka others have dispersed far and wide and we have acquired the characteristics and the psyche of our adopted country. This I am sure is evident whenever we meet at reunions. For good reason I am not a great fan of reunions but appreciate its value as so many do. I have enjoyed enormously the company of my medical school friends when we have met at the London reunions. There was that emotional element of nostalgia which was the main driving force. Although they live so near to me, we haven’t kept in contact by phone or seen any of them ever since. This fact can both support and dispute the worthiness of reunions.

 As Shakespeare has said in Julius Caesar there is one person I know who has remained as ‘constant as the northern star’ and he is Mahendra Gonsalkorale. I am certain he would refute this but I mention it as a compliment. When I speak with him the years simply melt away to return to the noise and the din of the Faculty Common Room of the 1960’s.

To meet together as a group in medical school for 5 years was a chance meeting and perhaps our destiny. I think of it no more than that. There were some whom we met on a corridor or a lecture room and became friends for life. There were a few whom we met in our formative years we learnt to avoid. That experience would be common to anyone attending any institution anywhere in the world. During reunions our emotions take over and before we say our goodbyes we plan our next reunion. But infact our lives don’t revolve round reunions as so much goes on in between. We do have our own lives. This is different for those living in Sri Lanka as there are so many of them concentrated in Colombo where space is never a problem and fine catering services are just a phone call away. They are like one family, all have remained close for so many years and have grown up together since medical school.

The loss of friends due to death is inevitable but when they have been close like ‘Claude’ Bernard was to me it leaves an echoing void that cannot be filled. But we all have learnt to accept that and move on as our time will come. So many from our batch have now departed this world. May they find Eternal peace.

Now I come to the Blog which for me is the mainstay, the pillar and the centrepiece of our batch. I have the ability to keep in touch with everyone at anytime. I can say what I like without using profanities. I can write as much or as little as I like. Amazingly when I write to someone on the blog the image I have of the person is what I hold from medical school days. There are the regulars who prop up the blog, the infrequents who enlighten us and the intermittents who mesmerise us. They all provide an invaluable service and long may it continue. Importantly it is a free service for us through the kind courtesy of Lucky Abeygunawardene who has managed it with such meticulous care. It is a labour of love. Reunions will come and go and have their place in our psyche but for me personally for its mere presence 24X7 and ease of use I value the blog more than anything else.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sunset at Galle Face

In response to Speedy's request, I wish to post these photographs that I took with my cheap digital camera (in contrast to Indra's and Speedy's near professional job with sophisticated cameras) on 24th September 2017 for another purpose.

More on Sunsets

Close on the heels of Indra Anandasabapathy's post on "Sunset in Florida", we have more on the same subject.

Zita Perera Subasinghe says:

"Sunset is always a beautiful sight. Here we have sunset from two parts
of the World – Southend on Sea and Beruwala in Sri Lanka.

Winter Sunset by Michael Stringer

I want to share the above photo of a Winter Sunset in Southend on Sea as photographed by my friend and former colleague Michael Stringer. Photography is one of his many interests and each of them he does to a very high standard.

My friend and Batch colleague Mahendra Gonsalkorale has added this beautiful sunset at Beruwala. 

Sunset at Beruwala, Sri Lanka by Mahendra Gonsalkorale

To accompany this scene of beauty and serenity I would like to add the following You Tube tune which seems a fitting piece".


"Beyond the Sunset" (Billy Vaughn)
Click on the link for the audio.

Blog Administrator's note:  

Speedy (as we call Mahendra), had taken this beautiful photograph of the Beruwela sunset on the South Western coast when he was on holiday in Sri Lanka earlier this month.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Blogs, Batch mates – Reminiscing and Reliving

When Lucky started the Blog, it was an electronic medium to supplement and enhance our Reunions. It has achieved that and more.

I began to ask myself questions like, “what is the purpose of bringing together people who shared a significant era of their lives but have since drifted apart?”. Some have maintained contact others haven’t. A lot of water has flown under the bridge and it is unrealistic to have the view that 50 years of eventful life since we were together has not changed us. When we meet a batch fellow after 20 years or more, we begin by conjuring up a mental image of that person as he/she used to be including the personality, character and even physical appearance. We then await with eager anticipation the first meeting. This is often a bit of a shock and could be quite disappointing. But very soon, the gap in years seem to melt away in most cases we hear expressions such as “you haven’t changed at all- apart from a few grey hairs and loss of cephalic foliage”. The interesting thing is that from that moment, your mental image of the person changes from the stored memory of 50 years ago to that most recent contact. A new relationship could arise depending on common interest but more often, life reverts back to the familiar. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and one must never lose the reality behind that.
We shared 5 years of formative life together in varying degrees of intimacy (some were very intimate!). The intimacy depended firstly on your Surname as that determined your immediate neighbours. There were other groups such as school mates and sports and other recreational interest. Within this, close friendships arose and persisted for varying lengths of time depending on circumstances. It is a strange fact that some very close associations made at that time also drifted away slowly to the extent that some were attenuated while others were totally lost. This is perfectly natural. Change after all, is the only permanent variable. When circumstances such as a Reunion arose, a kind of hope arose when looking forward to meeting your once close mate but sometimesresulted in disappointment, for the simple fact that both parties have changed so much that the meeting really is of two very different people who once shared the same spot on Mother Earth.
My own feeling is that Reunions and Blog chat is rewarding if one’s expectations are realistic. We are now old enough and mature enough to know where we stand in the Community we live in. Close family and close friends come first and this centre is surrounded by rings of others according to time, associations, and interests and so on. A Batch colleague may be within that circle of close friends but not because he was a batch colleague. That was the start but what happened between then and now is the determining factor. Human nature is such that we prefer some to others and we have our own preferences when it comes to long term friendships. On the other hand, you may have a very negative image of a person and find it a pleasant surprise to see a very changed person, much more to your liking. New friendships are created and maintained.
What is important in my view is to reflect on the fact that there is something we all share, and that is the good fortune to have had a wonderful education is a Country which has free education. (I for one, would never have been a Doctor without Free Education. My parents had 6 sons and 1 girl!).  I don’t think we should ever forget that and whenever the opportunity arises; we must support our Institutions and indeed, not wait for opportunities to arise but create them. I hasten not to use the term Patriotism. Being grateful and thankful is a good human characteristic, it has nothing to do with Patriotism which is questionably not a worthy attribute to have when what we need in the World today is Humanism and love for all human beings with as few barriers as possible.
So let us communicate, reminisce and be aware of our good fortune. . Let us never forget our Teachers both academic and clinical. Let us not expect too much when we meet. Let us accept people as they are and rejoice in our common medical heritage and let us help each other in any way we can. Let us use the Blog to be creative, share our experiences and rejoice in the successes of our colleagues and families.

Vivat Blog! Long live the Blog!

Mahendra (Speedy) Gonsalkorale

Monday, January 22, 2018

Back to being regular - Razaque

Lucky please post this in the Blog...... Raz. 

Sorry mates that I was  silent for a while. During that time my thanks from bottom of my heart to Rohini Ana & Sumathi for their kind & concerned messages of enquiry of my fickle health & well-being and ND & Mahen for their kind phone calls & long, interesting chats.

My issues were that I went into 'Hibernation' and in that period was down with a lingering "SNOTTY SUMMER" & progressed on to a lingering "SNOTTY AUTUMN"!!! I then developed a pretty bad Chest Infection that was sorted by a course of A'biotics. Admission to hospital was evaded as a result, but alas, the Blog was the only loser as there was no 'Story' of Hospital experience!!!  

I am pleased to announce to Our Blog followers that I have acquired TWO Companions!! One is from NZ (Waitangi) and the other locally!!!.It was all very amicable and in fact at the behest of Farina!!!.
One of them always. accompany me where ever I go....... the garden to potter-about, GP, Hospital, and even to BED to lay beside me..
I can see hear the sound of the wheels in your heads going at full "THREE-IN-A-BED" scenario???
I shall leave it to your imagination and await your 'suggestion' & comments.
I solemnly swear that everything said above is TRUE in content.
Your friend forever,

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Meeting old friends at Pram's Hyde Park Residencies

Pramilla Senanayake (Pram to all of us) hosted a lunch at the poolside at her Hyde Park Residencies today to meet and greet Mahendra Gonsalkorale (Speedy), Rohini Abhayaratne, Chitra Perera, Kumar Gunawardene and Gitanjali Jayanetti who are all on holiday in Sri Lanka. Others present were Harsha Samarajiva, Chandra Gnanissara, JC Fernando, Suranganie Fernando, Sanath Lamabadusuriya, Swyrie Balendra, Suriyakanthi Amarasekara, Lakshman Abeyagunawardene and spouses. Click on pictures to enlarge

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Monday, January 8, 2018

Masks - Sent in by Indra Anandasabapathy

I should have inserted this introduction in the appropriate place, but some how missed it. I see that Indra has done the needful by publishing it as a comment. So sorry about it.

Introduction by Indra:

We went to the opening day reception yesterday of this annual exhibit of RAINFOREST MASKS BY Costa Rican BORUCA tribe in a local botanical garden in south east , Florida.

The masks are carved in soft wood and then hand painted by craftsmen & women who hail from the southern part of the country.This year has been an exception because usually there are 1-3 of these artists in attendance demonstrating their work. Most of the masks get sold on day one itself and a line forms hours before the show opens. The masks have become collectors items and I could see the prices going up every year.There is one of our Sri Lankan doctors ( not our batch ) who has a extensive collection of masks from different nations and most of you know him. However I am not sure if he has one from Costa Rica because I saw his collection over 15 years ago.

Costa Rica is a Central American nation, Spanish speaking , has no army and one of the top environmentally conscious nations in the world and incredibly clean & pretty. It is known for its beaches ( the west coast ones have white sand, east coast beaches have volcanic sand)  the country is host to an active volcano in Arenal ,which also has wonderful  thermal springs, pretty rainforests, several species of pretty multicolored frogs, most of them however  are poisonous, varieties of birds including Toucans and the endangered gorgeous Quetzal. We went zip lining over the rain forests several years ago.

I have included here photographs of the masks from the exhibit at Marie Selby gardens in Sarasota. The ones with red stickers were sold on day one within an hour of the start.

A picture is worth a thousand words according to an old Chinese saying. I hope you do enjoy what we loved very much.

Click on photo to enlarge

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Greetings from Kumar Gunawardene

I received this message from Kumar.

Kanthi and I wish you, Mangala and all our colleagues a very happy, healthy and peaceful New Year. 
I thought you and our colleagues would be happy to learn that I have been awarded the position of Consultant Emeritus from the Townsville hospital ; I worked there as Director of Medicine/Cardiology and was largely instrumental in setting up a tertiary level cardiac service.
Being the modest man he is, Kumar does not want any further publicity! Hence not including the letters from the Chairman of the Hospital Board and the executive director of medical services.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Message from Razaque



In short ---- to all my Great Batch Mates , wish you all a very happy NEW YEAR and the 
                   GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

RAZAQUE, FARINA & FAMILY                    

p/s will be shortly starting being 'regular' & normal service shall begin too!!!!.... to the Blog.